Edit flooding is the term I'm using for when a single user (or small group of users) perform a lot of edits in a small space of time and effectively take over the front page - pushing a lot of new content away.

A few minutes ago, the front page was filled end to end with edits by one of our top editors. This is a bit of two-edged sword because the edits are all good and so are appreciated, but at the same time we are pulling eyes away from the new content on the site and making it potentially a little bit harder for new questions to get answers. Admittedly, the problem is pretty quick to self-heal, but some questions could still be slipping under the radar because of this.

  • Do we care about flooding caused by good edits?
    (I'm talking direct edits here, not suggested, but consider that many of these could be to "old" questions)

  • Should it be discouraged? Or ignored?

  • If discouraged, how should we be doing so without discouraging the editors from doing their good work?

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    a solution is for (one of the) mods, if not the most prolific editor to have Psi powers. If it's just one, no prizes for guessing whom it goes to.. – Sathyajith Bhat Aug 9 '11 at 17:26
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    Perhaps edits within the first 15 minutes shouldn't cause questions to get "bumped" up on the page? – Randolf Richardson Aug 9 '11 at 17:40
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    @Sathya Psi powers only work on titles though. – nhinkle Aug 9 '11 at 18:40
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    +1, I've long wondered about this and what we could do about it. – studiohack Aug 9 '11 at 22:35
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    Is Psi short for Psi-kick? ;-) Seriously though, I'm not sure what Psi means for this web site (the Search box came back with no matches). – Randolf Richardson Aug 9 '11 at 23:35
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    It'd be nice if stackexchange itself has a built-in control for this. I often will make multiple edits to a question/answer as I'm often excited to submit it, then find little tweaks I should make. I didn't know this caused an externally visible ripple, maybe there should be a check box like on Wikipedia "this is a significant edit" and it must be checked on to have the current external effect? – James T Snell Aug 9 '11 at 23:39
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    @RandolfRichardson :) I meant this – Sathyajith Bhat Aug 10 '11 at 6:36
  • @nhinkle oo yeah forgot about that,. – Sathyajith Bhat Aug 10 '11 at 6:37
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    Something clearly needs to be sorted for this. Today I was piling my way through reuploading images not hosted on i.stack.imgur.com - since I've seen a number of questions lately with broken images. Call it preventative action! However a few members complained in chat and asked me to stop editing, so I have for now. – Gaff Aug 11 '11 at 21:37
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    Just asked this - meta.stackexchange.com/questions/102012/… – William Hilsum Aug 11 '11 at 23:31
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    @Gareth: +1 because I feel your pain. Fixing broken images is a good thing to do, so please know you've got my support for this. – Randolf Richardson Aug 12 '11 at 3:07
  • I’ve seen the edit-flood on more than one occasion. Just recently I checked the site for any questions I can answer before going to bed, and when I saw that, I just left. The problem with the flood is that almost all of them are on already answered questions. That is, most of the questions being edited already have lots of views and answers, and have accepted an answer. This means that they are unnecessarily bumped up, and push down unanswered questions that need more attention. Not all the edits are productive. And like I said, not many users check the Questions tab. – Synetech Aug 21 '11 at 16:09
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    It doesn't matter if the questions have accepted answers or not - it's all about cleaning them up for various reasons - and who knows if another better answer might come along as a result of the edit? As Jeff points out below, there is the Questions tab which you could have used to see any potential questions you could answer. – Gaff Aug 22 '11 at 1:12

There are really two issues here

  1. Edits should be reasonably substantive -- trivial edits have all the negatives but almost none of the positives. For example, the 6 character guideline we use for suggested edits is a good starting point.

  2. You don't need to be too protective of the front page; remember that the questions link will show you just the newest questions and it is very prominently linked, e.g.

    http://superuser.com versus https://superuser.com/questions

Notice the difference?

I definitely do not support a "trivial edit" or "hidden edit" flag. All edits need to be vetted by the community, and hiding them is not the right way to accomplish this goal.

There should be a nice blend of bumped questions on the homepage naturally anyway:

  • new questions
  • questions with new answers
  • answers with new edits
  • questions with new edits

And so forth. If you want to see just the incoming new questions, https://superuser.com/questions is one link away.

enter image description here

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    Finally, an answer that directly addresses the "do we care?" part of my question; and pretty much with the answer I was hoping for too. – DMA57361 Aug 12 '11 at 6:51
  • > remember that the questions link will show you just the newest questions Except that many users don’t bother to look at the other tabs. I’ve been around for a while and rarely do, let alone less experienced users. – Synetech Aug 21 '11 at 16:05
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    @syn that's fine, so other interesting content is bumped. We want people to look at and review what is on the front page, not sweep it under the rug so lots of weird, bad, secret edits can go on. – Jeff Atwood Aug 21 '11 at 20:52
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    Trivial edits are good because they make the site better. If we don't want them to flood the active tab, fine: don't put them on the active tab. If they should be tracked and reviewed, fine: put them on a tab. We need to have active items and minor edits be separated. – Mooing Duck Jul 16 '12 at 20:42
  • @moo trivial edits don't make the site better. Substantive edits do. While substantive can be in the eye of the beholder, ask yourself: is this edit worth my time to review? Did someone spend a reasonable amount of effort in contributing this edit? – Jeff Atwood Jul 16 '12 at 22:18
  • I only consider an edit not worth my time if it is spam/trolling. If it is one typo of ten, it's not the best edit, but it's still better than no edit. I don't see why we should require volunteers to put work a certain amount before we let them in. Help is help. If someone removes one weed from my lawn as they walk by, that's an improvement, and I am thankful. – Mooing Duck Jul 16 '12 at 22:24
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    @moo not if it requires two other people to look at the removal, process it, and approve it. – Jeff Atwood Jul 16 '12 at 23:48

For what it's worth, I'm the editor who was referred to in the question.

I derive a real sense of satisfaction from editing questions and answers on the sites, and flagging anything that falls outside of what generally makes 'good content'. Sometimes those edits are significant and almost a complete rewrite, other times they are minor but may help with categorisation or search engine ranking.

My editing spans across recent additions to the site, anything found on the various review pages, and occasionally searches. My intention is not to flood the site with as many edits as possible, but to improve things whenever I see them to help improve the site overall. For example, I might come across a user's first question that needs rewriting, and in the process discover that a lot of answers to that question could do with some editing as well. Once I've finished that might result in say, 6 edits.

I can understand concerns about the front page being flooded with question/answer revisions, but I never actively think about it when I'm editing - especially when I imagine other traffic will push my edits down the front page anyway. For new questions there is also the Questions view which doesn't include edits anyway.

I would be quite disappointed if any measures were taken to slow down the editing, because it would turn it from something I can easily do in a casual way to something I would have to actively think about - and I don't really have any desire to do that.

My preference would be for an option to remove edits from having any impact on the front page activity.

EDIT: Something clearly needs to be sorted for this. Today I was piling my way through reuploading images not hosted on i.stack.imgur.com - since I've seen a number of questions lately with broken images. Call it preventative action! However a few members complained in chat and asked me to stop editing, so I have for now.

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    Sorry for commenting to you in this question (I removed my comment, you can do so as well), but I had no other way of bringing it up. I didn't mean it as a personal attack, this is something I've seen happen with various other users in the past (myself included), and just wanted to bring it to your attention. If you take a look at my answer to this question, I agree that you shouldn't have to actively stop. – Breakthrough Aug 9 '11 at 18:27
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    Oh, and as nhinkle brought up in a comment to digitxp's answer, this idea has been proposed and denied in the past on Meta SO. – Breakthrough Aug 9 '11 at 18:53
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    I'd love to have an "invisible edit mode", for what it's worth. While I don't edit as much as you do (1500:750 in this quarter), I guess I should feel "guilty" for the same reasons. Too bad the feature request has been declined though. – slhck Aug 9 '11 at 19:21
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    +1 because I feel the same way that Gareth does. I used to edit a lot, but I cut back severely because people complained and a few even seemed to be "pissed off" about it (someone even told me that it damages their score and not to edit their Answers again -- I'm not going to keep a list!). This was discouraging because I truly thought I was contributing positively to the quality of Questions and Answers. Although I don't consider this as "buckling under peer pressure," I do think that if minor and major edits are upsetting people that my time and effort is better spent on other things. – Randolf Richardson Aug 9 '11 at 23:45
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    I don't think that removing the effects of editing a question should be removed from the front page. I feel that feature is a key part of what makes Stack Exchange run. – James Mertz Aug 9 '11 at 23:51
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    I only ever look at the 'Questions' view anyway. You keep doing what you're doing. – Shinrai Aug 11 '11 at 18:01
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    @Gareth just keep editing, don't stop because you were asked to stop, that's my opine. – jcolebrand Aug 11 '11 at 21:47
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    If your edits were suck, it would be a problem. Carry on the good fight. – random Aug 12 '11 at 0:48
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    This is very encouraging. I think I'm going to start editing more too. – Randolf Richardson Aug 12 '11 at 3:11
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    Gareth and @Randolf, while many of the answers here focus on "fixing" the edits flooding the page (which, wasn't what I was asking) there are a few answers and comments that looked at the "do we care" bit, and of those, it seems what consensus there is points to no, we don't care, there's always the new questions list - so please, as long as you're doing good edits please continue. :) – DMA57361 Aug 12 '11 at 6:50
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    I've been noticing your edits lately, Gareth. You even got some of my posts. Just wanted to say thanks and keep up the good work! – Pops Sep 2 '11 at 21:19

Based on this post and some events this afternoon, me and Gareth were able to chat about this issue to some extent.

The biggest issue was that some of the edits appear to be insubstantial, and useless, from our view. What I did not realize, was that Gareth was re-uploading all the broken images that were dead from PhotoBucket. The most of the edits were clearly done well, with a few minor exceptions.

From this, my biggest problem was that we have a lot of questions on the site. When someone asks them, they plunk down on our home page. But with all these edits, it was quickly being pushed to the bottom, or right off. Now Gareth suggested I simply go to the Questions > Newest page. This is a reasonable suggestion, but it dawned on me that, like I normally do, many users probably just refresh the home page, and expect to see new questions, or updated with answers.

I think this could be resolved with studiohack's proposal on Meta.SO, which outlines that moderators can do a no-bump with edits. I think this feature should be give to top editors also, who continually put forth quality edits. Perhaps with 500+ Edits, since they would then know how to edit well, and would have the Copy Editor badge. Only 14 users have this.

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    This seems like a very sensible solution to the problem. +1 – Randolf Richardson Aug 12 '11 at 3:14

What about implementing a time-based edit queue? For example, let's say we set the threshold to five edits, with a time delta of 10 minutes.

If you make more than five edits within a ten-minute period, all subsequent edits are sent to a queue. The edits in the queue are done immediately (the content is changed instantaneously), but they are pushed to the front page one at a time after a certain amount of time (maybe 5 minutes).

(Basically, your edits go to a queue if you exceed 5 edits in 10 minutes. After that, all edits are delayed being pushed to the front page by five minutes. Any subsequent edits, while there are still entries in the queue, are further queued.)

Furthermore, since sometimes you want edits to your own questions/answers to appear near the top, this should only apply to edits you perform on someone else's post. If this was implemented, there would be no need to view an edit queue (except for your own), and if that particular edit was rolled back, it should be removed from the queue.

Finally, some people have worries that their "essential" edits would not be pushed to the front as quick as they would like. To mitigate this, maybe there would be a way to flag an edit as a "priority edit", so it would be put in the top of your edit queue (and would be placed on the front page in the next push interval).


Also, maybe strictly tag-edits should not be pushed to the front page (but still show up on a user's edit history, of course)? I do not think we should implement a "minor change", because as some have said, it reduces the visibility of user edits to the community. That being said, I think that just tag edits could be an exception to this rule.

  • Good idea, and not too hard to implement (with my limited knowledge of ASP.NET), but I think the problem here would be that it doesn't distinguish small edits and large edits. If there were a way to distinguish between the two (say by number of characters changed) and push the large edits immediately, it would be the best of both worlds. – digitxp Aug 9 '11 at 17:19
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    @digitxp in my opinion, we should not distinguish major versus minor edits, since sometimes the editor does wish for that post to reach the front page (regardless of the edit size). My only logic in saying that is because there no way to automatically differentiate between spelling/grammar corrections or corrections to the content itself - even a minor change to content could be classified as a major change to a question/answer. I would agree that this could be implemented for just tag edits only. – Breakthrough Aug 9 '11 at 17:24
  • Well, we could differentiate them manually with a checkbox. – digitxp Aug 9 '11 at 17:31
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    Bad, bad idea. Separating the edit from the result punishes a prolific editor. What if the fifth edit was to correct a stupendously bad piece of advice that led to data destruction. You have to assume each edit is the best edit and work on other avenues to let people see the questions they want - not the ones recently changed. – bmike Aug 9 '11 at 17:39
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    @bmike The activity feed is not a notification system. Breakthrough's suggestion is that we only delay the pushing to the activity feed. – digitxp Aug 9 '11 at 23:13
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    I think that this is the best idea. – James Mertz Aug 9 '11 at 23:53
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    This sounds like an awesome idea! I wonder how hard this is to implement though... – Tamara Wijsman Aug 10 '11 at 22:19

Edit floods are based really on the traffic of your site, and how much of an impact it will cause. For example, on Stack Overflow, you could probably do a flood of 150 edits in the span of an hour, and it'll have almost no impact - the front page moves fast enough to override even that much, and the special "Interesting" view may even completely overlook these revisions. However, on many of the small Stack Exchange 2.0 sites, they don't get enough traffic to overwhelm a full front-page worth of edits (which is 50, by the way). As such, judge the appropriate frequency based on your site performance. Aaronut wrote an interesting analysis of Seasoned Advice's traffic with regards to 'edit floods', consider using that as an example of what to look at.

Super User is one of the higher performing sites so you're probably more in Stack Overflow's shoes than in a small site's. However, you also want to keep in mind, the faster a massive edit session is done, the less impact it will have on your traffic. It may overwhelm the front page for an hour, but after that hour, it could be recovered by your normal traffic very easily, with the added bonus that the edit job will be done.

You may consider that it is often wiser to perform massive edit jobs during low period hours. That way, any impact you do have on the front page, will be during a period of time when there isn't much for the revisions to take away from. As well, when the activity of the site does pick up, it'll again clear up all of the leftovers from the edit flood.

I'd say that ultimately, the biggest thing to keep in mind about an edit flood is prepare in advance for it. These should be planned efforts to maximize the amount affected while minimizing the impact on the site. Determine whether it is a tiny job of 20-30 posts that can just be done any time in the day at any rate, versus a job of 100+ that is best done overnight in one fell swoop.

To take away from it, as long as it is improving the site and not significantly detracting from your normal site activity, I'd say that such things should not be discouraged. We needn't necessarily encourage them, but I think they're fine when they work without harm. There's little that can be done post-fact other than discuss how to do it better (if there were any issues).

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    Can we get stats on when a site has its lowest views? – random Aug 9 '11 at 17:10
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    I disagree with your advice to do editing in non-peak hours. One shouldn't have to work around a site's algorithms to make it better. That would be comparable to going on Facebook and posting on people's walls to control who appears on your profile's top friends list. – digitxp Aug 9 '11 at 17:13
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    @digitxp agreed. It might be wiser to perform massive edit jobs during low-period hours, but how can you expect moderators to plan their own lives around that? And for what it's worth, even if the massive edit jobs are pushed down within an hour, the impression of the site to all those users who looked at it before will be left. – Breakthrough Aug 9 '11 at 17:16
  • @Breakthrough I'm not suggesting you plan your lives around it. Just that in general, if you want to avoid a significant impact on traffic, then the natural conclusion is that it is best done when there isn't a lot of traffic. Not every edit job is going to even have that impact, but when it does, I don't think it is harmful to simply try it at a less active time. – Grace Note Aug 9 '11 at 17:35
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    @Grace Note I apologize, in retrospect I think my comment may have come off a bit strongly. I agree that it would mitigate the impact significantly, but I also have to agree with digitxp - there is more then one way to change the way edits are currently handled, in order to avoid having to shift when the edits are done in the first place. – Breakthrough Aug 9 '11 at 17:37
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    @Breakthrough No hard feelings. I agree that a better solution is always a better avenue, but I believe in the philosophy that, until a fix or change is implemented, there are always ways to take advantage of what resources we do have, if we are willing. – Grace Note Aug 9 '11 at 17:38
  • Why not have the edits only be reflected during off peak hours? Similar to @Breakthroughs suggestion but during a better time for the site. – James Mertz Aug 9 '11 at 23:54
  • @KronoS But then is it truly an active question anymore? – digitxp Aug 10 '11 at 18:16
  • what do you mean @digitxp? – James Mertz Aug 10 '11 at 18:27
  • @Kronos Delaying any edit would defeat the purpose of having it in the Activity feed in the first place. – digitxp Aug 10 '11 at 19:06
  • @digitxp not exactly. In fact it would allow for the activity feed to be balanced with the new questions and edits. – James Mertz Aug 10 '11 at 20:21
  • @KronoS My Facebook News Feed is "balanced" and I often feel like a stalker as a result. I don't think that a "smart" or balanced Activity feed can work out well. – digitxp Aug 10 '11 at 21:05
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    @digitxp that's why i don't use fakebook ;P – James Mertz Aug 10 '11 at 23:08

It seems that there are two issues here:

  1. Is it appropriate for a "minor edit" flag to be added? Tag edits could default to this unless over-ruled, it could be smart to sense adding 50% new content or whatever, but basically let the power editors and moderators choose whether to "bump" with a specific edit or not.

  2. Should users be given the filter or a lever to sort questions that were asked recently rather than edited recently.

I surely can't speak if the effort needed to implement a "minor edit" tag would pay off, but it would be a handy lever for moderators to suppress any sort of edits that were made in bad faith simply to bump a question as well as for editors that do great work at one time and didn't know or care to make an edit minor. Wikipedia has implemented the minor editing flag quite well so perhaps that might be the right solution if the problem is acute enough to the people with the checkbooks.

Anything like throttling acts against the long term health to have the best answers, no matter who or when they make the edit. Don't turn away people editing a ton of articles that need tagging, clean-up, whatever without exhausting other means to preserve a "fresh" list of questions.

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    Whilst I do make minor edits at times, I guess the only issue is that I also tend to make a stream of significant edits on occasion. I edit fast! I wouldn't consider them minor edits, but at the same time I'm not a fan of how they "flood" the front page and annoy people. – Gaff Aug 11 '11 at 22:42
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    And to be clear, if the queue is only for the feed, I suppose that is less bad than some of the comments, but the minor edit would be easiest implement and understand from my understanding of how things currently work. – bmike Aug 11 '11 at 23:12

What about a combination of Grace Note's and Breakthrough's suggestion?

Here's what I see:

  1. A queue is built up after 'X' amount of posts are edited within a pre-determined time period.
    • it might be a good thing to exclude any edits that are made by the original OP in order to give users that are adding detail to their questions/answers to not be hampered.
  2. If at that time the site is busy, then that queue is release over a period of time to let the edits come through, but not flood the site with traffic that will 'hide' new questions.
  3. If the site is slow a higher amount of those queue edits are released if not all of them.

This is similar to what the community account already does with unanswered questions, and shouldn't be difficult to add the edits within that already made code.

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    Additionaly, the current user could be notified just like peer reviewed edits that there edit is queued. However, this might only be interesting after an certain rate of edits. You don't want single regular edits to go through a queue... – Tamara Wijsman Aug 10 '11 at 22:16

Sounds like when the Gizmodo editors didn't post anything for a few hours after they did the iPhone 4 uncover because they wanted people to see it.

On one hand, we want recent activity to come up first, on the other, we don't want less recent activity that is more important to leave the activity feed too quickly.

Possibly a "minor edit" checkbox could be a solution?

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    Minor edits have been proposed and denied on MSO – nhinkle Aug 9 '11 at 18:42
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    @nhinkle But note that the rationale behind the denial is not necessarily against the concept of the minor edit so much as its implementation. – digitxp Aug 9 '11 at 23:24
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    I've been over this before, because I personally like the idea. The team doesn't seem to approve of it though, so it's not likely to happen. – nhinkle Aug 9 '11 at 23:26

A lot can go wrong in 5 characters in an English sentence. In fact, everything can go wrong in just one.

We need edits with 0 points for correcting common errors (up to three?) such as typos, grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes, etc.

Let's not get lost in the sauce: the ramifications of a mistake in an English sentence are not measured by the length of the error.

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